With This Ring I Give to Charity

Starting January 1, an engagement ring, estimated around $22,000, is going to the highest bidder. The auction will run for five weeks — just in time for the winning bidder to mount a dramatic Valentine’s Day proposal. The ring itself is a beauty, weighing at just over three carats with a 2.75-carat single diamond and two baguette diamonds set in platinum with an emerald cut. The current owner, Chris Ammon, came into possession of this ring after her grandmother passed away; she’s decided that the ring could do way more good off her hand than on it, or in a safe deposit box, so she’s creating a auction and donating all the proceeds to various charities she believes in.

Some charities on the list include Quilts for Kids Nepal, which provides school tuition for kids in Nepal, donating money to spay and neuter stray dogs in Mexico, and helping to sponsor ethical travel through the Ethical Traveler. Check out the story for yourself here, or follow along with the blog here.

January Is Cheap Travel Month

If you make one resolution this year, make it to travel in January — it’s one of the most overlooked months for travel out of the whole year. With everyone back to school and back to the grind, planes are relatively empty and seats are fairly cheap. And by cheap I mean somewhere in the range of 50% off, if you look in the right places. Even the New York Times agrees: “January may be the best time of year to take a vacation, as passenger traffic drops and resorts, airlines and cruise companies all roll out deals.” Should you want to dive into winter and get bundled up and snowed in, check for deals in Vancouver and you might score some peeks at the Winter Olympics.

If you’d rather trade in your sweaters and scarves for sunscreen and poolside cocktails, there are deals to be had in the states — namely San Diego and Hawaii — but if you want to brush off your passport, go ahead and look in the Bahamas or Mexico. The latter looks to be the biggest bargain this year due to the H1N1 scare of ’09, and so deals will be deepest to places like Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Fewer crowds, empty planes, and cheap hotel rates — now’s the time to go.

Top 50 NYE Destinations

The sixth annual Priceline Top 50 New Year’s Eve Destinations has been released. Detailing the hottest spots to hang out and ring in 2010, based on consumer booking requests for the holiday, it’s fairly accurate. Though it may be too late to make out-of-town plans to visit any of these spots, you can check the list to see what’s near you if you don’t have plans already. At the top of the list:

1. Las Vegas, Strip Vicinity South. Don’t worry if you’re headed to the North Strip, it ranked number 11. 2. New York City, Chelsea Area. Holla at the club! 3. New York City, Times Square/Theater District. This one is for out of towners only. 4. Miami, South Beach/Ocean Drive. Sunshine and surf, this one is a no brainer. 5. New Orleans, Downtown. Nawlins still has it!

Read the rest of the list here.

Free Rides in Las Vegas, NYE

Just like Diddy is doing on the East Coast, for drunkish New Yorkers, the city of Las Vegas is providing free rides for partygoers. Starting at 6 pm on New Year’s Eve, the strip will be hosting free bus rides on all city routes, as well as the re-routed routes that happen on New Year’s Eve so that the partygoers can take over the streets on the strip. The best part about the free rides is the fact that they run all night and spill over into after-after-hour party time, as in 9 am. That’s right, you can party your little drunken ass off from 6 pm to about 8:45 in the am, giving you a full 14 + hours to imbibe as much booze and or other recreational fun as you can, knowing you don’t have to be coherent enough to drive anyone home.

Though they didn’t mention it, it would be a wise bet to staff these buses with some free egg sandwiches and maybe some bags to retch in, as I’m sure some of the bus goers will have hit their limits by the time they try to catch a ride. Or you could even sell egg sandwiches or hot dogs in the bus, you could rake in the cash!

P. Diddy Wants to Drive You Home on New Year’s

P.Diddy wants you to party hard this 31st, and to prove it, he’s going to pay for you to get home safely. He’s most concerned about New Yorker’s getting home safe, so he’s making his effort in the Big Apple. This New Year’s Eve, Diddy, along with the city Taxi & Limousine Commission is handing out thousands of free rides home. No, Diddy isn’t going to peddling you around in a pedicab, though that might be a fun end to a raucous evening, and no, there aren’t going to be Diddy impersonators driving cabs around the city, though that might be fun as well. Instead you can pick up a voucher for a $15 cab ride, or a single ride metrocard.

Diddy hopes that NYC can set an example for the rest of the country. “New York is the world’s most iconic New Year’s Eve city, so let’s lead by example and show everyone that a sophisticated holiday celebration doesn’t just end when the ball drops, but when everyone gets home safely,” Combs said. If you want in on the free cab/free metrocard deal, you can pick them up from Times Square or Chelsea starting at 11pm and going until 3am or until supplies run out. Just track down a Ciroc street team member and demand your free ride.

New Year’s Day: What’s Open?

For those of you who won’t be getting blasted and smashed and totally hung over for the 1st of 2010 — maybe you think NYE is for amateurs, or maybe you just can really hold your alcohol, there are a few choice spots open on New Year’s Day that might be worth checking out while the rest of the sick-as-a-dog chumps lay moaning in bed. If you’re in New York, you’re in luck, as there are some places that will be open and ready for your patronage. Here’s the top five things you should check out if you’re out and about on New Year’s Day:

1. Get invigorated with the annual Polar Bear Club New Year’s Swim. Show up at the boardwalk in Coney Island and get ready to jump in. Bring your camera and a donation for Camp Sunshine. He at least it’ll scare your hangover away.

2. The MoMA or the Guggenheim. Check out these big museums on a day that’s probably going to be pretty empty. Tell yourself it’s your culture for the year.

3. Radio City Christmas Spectacular: Check out one of this season’s last performances (the show ends on the 3rd). It’s a very New York thing to do.

4. Go skating! The forecast calls for 29 degrees and sunny, so taking a spin on some frozen water might be fun. All the rinks are open, including Wollman, Rockerfeller, and the City Ice Pavillion.

5. The Zoo or The Aquarium. Both open. Both should be relatively empty.

Want more? Check out the full list at NewYorkology.

NYE Sale, Virgin America

All right all you last minute travelers, if you want a chance to get out of town for NYE, Virgin America is throwing you a bone. For their final hurrah of 2009, Virgin America is having one last fire sale and has come up with fares that should go easy on your bank account, like $39 one-ways between Los Angeles and San Francisco, $59 one-ways between Los Angeles and Seattle, and the $99 one-ways cross country between Los Angeles and New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, and even between Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles.

The best part about this sale is that the fares are good with only a one-day advance purchase, so you can head out of town as early as tomorrow. You can also travel through the end of February on these seats. You’ve got to book by tonight and there are a few blackout dates — January 2 + 3, and February 12 and February 15. Happy New Year, courtesy of Virgin America. Book here.

“Best Job in the World” Comes to an End

In 2009, there was a contest over in Hamilton Island, Australia to win the “Best Job in the World.” In 2010, that job comes to an end. The sweet gig, which gave Ben Southall a cool $100,000 and a six month “gig” where he blogged and took photos of his amazing adventures snorkeling, jet skiing, spelunking, and otherwise having a fabulous time, is now over. However, Ben’s time in the spotlight is not. He’s parlayed his six months of fame into a full time tourism gig. That’s what a sixty-second video and lots of luck can get you!

His newest gig is in the same “lucky-duck” category that his previous gig was in. He gets to roam between the 14 Queensland tourism offices around the world, promoting Hamilton Island and Queensland, talking up how awesome his time was and how you should go check it out for yourself. While he might not be spending as much time swimming, surfing and sunning, he’ll be able to flex his travel wings and check out some great places — Tourism Queensland has offices in the United States, Japan, China, and New Zealand.

Operation Confusion: Airport Security

After the botched airplane bombing attempt on Christmas Day, airport security has been on overload, prompting several bizarre security measures and confusing the hell out of many passengers traveling over the weekend. The new rules and regs that have been flying around don’t do much but create bits of chaos in airports around the country.

This is in part, on purpose. The idea is to not to have security exposing their tactics in a cookie-cutter, terrorist-understanding kind of way. If the passengers are confused about the whats and the whys, then so will the would-be bombers. Following is a sample of the most ridiculous “security” measures enacted over the last few days:

1. No listening to an iPod. At all.

2. No blankets on laps during the last hour of the flight, and in that case, passengers were told to “keep their hands visible.”

3. Everyone gets frisked at the gate, and “everyone” even includes babies, one of which screamed in protest.

4. Bathrooms are off limits during the last hour of the flight. This led to lines 10-deep when the announcement was made.

5. In-flight screens showing the planes whereabouts and flight path were shut off, for “safety reasons.”